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With slightly more than a handful of releases to his credit, Texas native Spencer Stephenson has covered a vast, impressive array of musical ground with his work as Botany. Integrating live instrumentation and dusty samples, his compositional techniques are informed by hip-hop and beat-heavy electronic music, but they reference spiritual jazz, psychedelic folk, ambient, and numerous other styles. His work varies from the more rhythmic, pulsating tracks of 2013's Lava Diviner (Truestory) to the free-flowing washes of sound heard on 2016's Deepak Verbera, but it's always conscious, uplifting, and organic. Originally from northern Texas, Stephenson started experimenting with music production as a teenager, inspired by Four Tet, Madlib, J Dilla, and others. He began sharing his music online in 2008, and his first EP, Feeling Today, was released by Austin-based Western Vinyl in 2010. A bit more poppy than some of his later releases, the recording featured vocalist Ashley Rathburn. Botany remixed artists such as Ryat and Cuushe and produced a track on Lushlife's 2012 album, Plateau Vision. After relocating to a farm outside Austin, Stephenson recorded his full-length debut, Lava Diviner (Truestory), which appeared in 2013. Dimming Awe, the Light Is Raw, one of the most hip-hop-oriented Botany releases, appeared in 2015 as a limited LP; guests included rapper Milo and Leaving Records founder Matthewdavid. In 2016, Botany released Deepak Verbera, a surprising excursion into cosmic music and free jazz, channeling artists such as Alice Coltrane and Popol Vuh. Raw Light II, a digital companion release to Dimming Awe, appeared in 2017. Stephenson and Lushlife formed a duo called the Skull Eclipses, debuting with "Totality Piece," which featured Mary Lattimore. The project's self-titled debut arrived in 2018, followed by a limited, mainly instrumental cassette called Penumbras. Botany returned in 2020, first with a 30-minute ambient piece titled "Fourteen 45 Tails," as well as an EP of sketches named Phone Ideas. Full-length End the Summertime F(or)ever, a psychedelic beat collage touching on house and new age, landed in 2020.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo
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